Guidance

Safeguarding and remote education during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Understand how to follow safeguarding procedures when planning remote education strategies and teaching remotely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Schools can read separate guidance for full opening in September 2020.

The latest update includes:

  • reference to local restrictions
  • links to new resources

This guidance is to help schools and teachers support pupils’ remote education during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. It should be read alongside statutory safeguarding guidance on keeping children safe in education.

Where a class, group or small number of pupils need to self-isolate, or there are local restrictions requiring pupils to remain at home, the Department for Education expects schools to be able to immediately offer them access to remote education. Schools should ensure remote education, where needed, is safe, high quality and aligns as closely as possible with in-school provision.

Schools should continue to improve the quality of their remote education and have a strong contingency plan in place for remote provision. Details of the expectations for remote provision can be found in the guidance for full opening.

Safeguarding pupils and teachers online

Keeping pupils and teachers safe during remote education is essential. Teachers delivering remote education online should be aware that the same principles set out in the school’s staff behaviour policy (sometimes known as a code of conduct) will apply. Schools may want to update their policies to reflect remote online education.

Schools may wish to use these resources to understand more about how to ensure online education is safe:

Schools can access the free Professionals Online Safety Helpline which supports the online safeguarding of both children and professionals. Call 0344 381 4772 or email helpline@saferinternet.org.uk. The helpline is open from Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm.

Guidance on teaching online safety in schools provides information to help schools ensure their pupils understand how to stay safe and behave online.

School contact with parents and carers during this time can also be used to reinforce the importance of children staying safe online.

It is especially important for parents and carers to be aware of what their children are being asked to do, including:

  • sites they will be asked to use
  • school staff their child will interact with

Schools should emphasise the importance of a safe online environment and encourage parents and carers to set age-appropriate parental controls on digital devices and use internet filters to block malicious websites. These are usually free, but often need to be turned on.

Use these resources to support parents and carers to keep their children safe online:

  • support for parents and carers to keep children safe online, which outlines resources to help keep children safe from different risks online and where to go to find support and advice
  • guidance on staying safe online which includes information on security and privacy settings
  • Thinkuknow provides advice from the National Crime Agency (NCA) on staying safe online
  • Parent info is a collaboration between Parentzone and the NCA providing support and guidance for parents from leading experts and organisations
  • Childnet offers a toolkit to support parents and carers of children of any age to start discussions about their online life, to set boundaries around online behaviour and technology use, and to find out where to get more help and support
  • Internet matters provides age-specific online safety checklists, guides on how to set parental controls on a range of devices, and a host of practical tips to help children get the most out of their digital world
  • London Grid for Learning has support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online, including tips to keep primary aged children safe online
  • Net-aware has support for parents and carers from the NSPCC, including a guide to social networks, apps and games
  • Let’s Talk About It has advice for parents and carers to keep children safe from online radicalisation
  • UK Safer Internet Centre has tips, advice, guides and other resources to help keep children safe online, including parental controls offered by home internet providers and safety tools on social networks and other online services

Reporting concerns

It is essential to have and communicate clear reporting routes so that children, teachers, parents and carers can raise any safeguarding concerns in relation to remote online education.

Schools may wish to review the existing arrangements (including their child protection policy) to ensure they are appropriate and reflect remote online education, or whether additional or alternative arrangements need to be put in place.

Schools should consider referring teachers, parents and carers to the practical support that’s available for reporting harmful or upsetting content as well as bullying and online abuse.

Harmful or upsetting content

Get support by:

  • reporting harmful online content to the UK Safer Internet Centre
  • getting government advice and trusted resources from Educate Against Hate on safeguarding from radicalisation, building resilience to extremism, and promoting shared values

Bullying or abuse online

You can:

Schools may also wish to use resources such as Tootoot to provide a confidential route for pupils to report bullying or abuse.

Communicating with parents, carers and pupils

Where education is having to take place remotely due to coronavirus (COVID-19), it’s important for schools, teachers and pupils to maintain professional practice as much as possible. When communicating online with parents and pupils, schools should:

  • communicate within school hours as much as possible (or hours agreed with the school to suit the needs of staff)
  • communicate through the school channels approved by the senior leadership team
  • use school email accounts (not personal ones)
  • use school devices over personal devices wherever possible
  • advise teachers not to share personal information

Virtual lessons and live streaming

Should schools choose to provide remote education using live streaming or pre-recorded videos, guidance from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) on which video conference service is right for your school and using video conferencing services securely could help schools to set up video conferencing safely.

In addition, guidance from the UK Safer Internet Centre on safe remote learning includes detailed advice on live, online teaching, and the safeguarding guidance from London grid for learning (LGfL) includes platform-specific advice.

Teaching from home is different from teaching in the classroom. Teachers should try to find a quiet or private room or area to talk to pupils, parents or carers. When broadcasting a lesson or making a recording, consider what will be in the background.

In some areas, schools may also be able to seek support from their local authority when planning online lessons and activities, and considering online safety.

Providing pastoral care remotely

Where pupils are required to remain at home (for example, if pupils need to self-isolate or there are local restrictions) helping parents, carers and pupils to make a weekly plan or structure is important. These plans should include time for education, playing and relaxing to reduce stress and anxiety.

As set out in Public Health England’s guidance for parents and carers, routine can give children and young people an increased feeling of safety in the context of uncertainty.

Schools might want to consider whether one-to-one sessions could be appropriate in some circumstances. For example, to provide pastoral care or provide support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

This should be discussed and approved by the senior leadership team to assess any risks. There may be helpful solutions, such as including a parent or additional staff member in the call.

Personal data and GDPR

Schools should continue to follow the guidance outlined in the data protection: toolkit for schools when managing personal data and may need to consider:

  • taking care not to share contact details when emailing multiple people
  • being careful when sharing usernames and other personal data for access to online resources
  • providing access to school data systems safely

Read the other guidance on teaching during coronavirus (COVID-19).

Published 19 April 2020
Last updated 6 October 2020 + show all updates
  1. Page updated with reference to local restrictions and links to new resources.

  2. Added information about virtual lessons and live streaming. Updated information on finding which video conference service is right for your school and using them securely.

  3. First published.